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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Dance Review

A pleasing innocence to Mateo’s ‘Nutcracker’

CAMBRIDGE — Sometimes it’s just a tiny detail that makes one’s heart beat a little faster. In the first act of José Mateo Ballet Theatre’s 25th annual production of “The Nutcracker” (at the Sanctuary Theatre in Cambridge through Sunday, and then at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester Dec. 22-24), Clara is bourréeing about the stage with the nutcracker her Godpapa Drosselmeyer has given her. One of the little boys who’s come to her parents’ party is running after her and trying to snatch it away, but whenever he gets too close, she gives a little tendu kick at him without missing a bourrée beat.

America is, as Jennifer Fisher’s 2003 book has it, “Nutcracker Nation,” and our productions of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic are, like America itself, a study in diversity. Local choreographer José Mateo’s chamber version, with a reduced cast and taped music, has a pleasing innocence about it, and many admirable details. The panel that functions as a curtain uses vivid colors to depict old-fashioned objects like a pocket watch and books from the 19th century on a dark-green background with a paisley pattern. Drosselmeyer appears against a backdrop of clocks; the second act is played against a backdrop of Ionic Greek columns. In his “Waltz of the Flowers,” Mateo dresses his dancers in shades of pink, yellow, and purple instead of having them all wear the same color. And in the opening act, at the Silberhaus party, the only woman who’s not sporting pantalettes under her hoop skirt is the daring one in the bright red off-the-shoulder dress.

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